It’s Break Time; Time to Talk Turkey

Feb 24, 2016 by

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The first half of the 2016 Kansas Legislative Session was over before 1:00 yesterday afternoon by which time both chambers had finished taking action on bills and adjourned until next week.

This break is important. All 165 Kansas Representatives and Senators will be back home and we are certain they will want to hear from their constituents.

As far as public education is concerned several issues are still out there.

House Bill 2531 repealing due process for Community and Technical College instructors has been referred to the Appropriations Committee so it is still available for debate in March. Be watchful.

House Bill 2486 and Senate Bill 356 have both been sent to the Appropriations Committee and are still available for action. These are the two bills establishing the bond and interest state aid review panel.

House Bill 2698, a bill on school district bullying policies, was also referred to Appropriations Committee. This bill did not get a hearing in House Education during the first half. It may be saved as a vehicle for some other purpose.

House Bill Sub for 2292 is the “common core” bill. It has not been referred to an exempt committee and under normal circumstances would be considered dead but the contents of bills under the dome never seem to die. They come back, zombie-like, and are resurrected via floor amendments or on a gut and go maneuver. So while the bill does not advance, don’t expect the proponents to give up yet.

House Bills 2174 and 2457, the bills amending and expanding the voucher program via tuition tax credits both failed to advance and so may be done for this year. But remember! They could come back as zombies via floor amendment or gut and go.

These are all issues on which your legislators need to hear from constituents and you and your neighbors are constituents! Look for opportunities to meet with legislators during this brief break – forums, around town, eggs and issues -–wherever you can find your legislator, give them an earful!

For the second half of this session, the legislature needs to abandon these anti-education bills and instead focus on solving the state’s serious revenue crisis so that vital public services from highways to public safety, from the social safety net to public schools can be adequately funded. Stop playing games and get to work.

We’ve updated the UTD bill tracker to include turnaround status. Use the link on the right-side menu to access the bill tracker.

Gone for Good?

Some bills have probably gone away for good – or at least for the rest of this session.

Senate Bill 324, the winter celebrations curriculum bill did not come out of committee and was not blessed. This issue is probably gone for this year. The bill was not terribly controversial in the hearing and the Senate Education Committee didn’t seem to be overly interested.

House Bill 2504 was Rep. John Bradord’s school district “realignment” (consolidation) bill. The bill had a hearing and generated overwhelming opposition. The committee took no action and it is not blessed.

House Bill 2532, as we reported Tuesday, was killed on the House floor. This is the change to the Rose Standards that added financial literacy. It had been amended on the floor to include last year’s ethnic studies bill. But when Rep. Don Hineman pointed out that this bill was usurping the State Board of Education’s constitutional authority for curriculum, many Representatives changed their vote from Aye to Nay and the bill was defeated. It likely will not come back.

An Education Bill from Each Chamber!

Despite all the hearings, debates, and discussions, only one bill we have been tracking has managed to get through either chamber.

The Senate, on a vote of 38 -1 adopted SB 323, the Jason Flatt Act requiring one hour of annual suicide prevention training for educators. It was amended in committee to provide liability protection for educators. This bill will now go to the House for consideration.

The House passed HB 2578, a bill that would allow chiropractors to clear a school athlete with a head injury to return to play. The bill passed on a vote of 73 to 51. A motion to reconsider that action was offered and, upon reconsideration, the bill was once again passed on a vote of 70 – 53. It will now head over to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Passes Bill Paying Some Foster Parents to Put Children in Private or Home Schools

The Senate advanced yesterday and approved on final action today Senate Bill 410 which establishes a special category of foster family labeled a “CARE” family.

Here is how the bill defines a CARE family:

A family shall meet the following requirements, and any additional requirements imposed by the secretary, to become licensed as a CARE family:

(1) A lawfully married couple in a stable relationship, married for at least seven years;

(2) submit to a background check on both spouses;

(3) no use of tobacco by anyone inside the family’s home;

(4) no history of unlawful drug use for the past seven years by anyone currently living in the family’s home;

(5) no alcoholic liquor or cereal malt beverages in the family’s home;

(6) both spouses have attained at least a high school diploma or equivalent;

(7) at least one spouse does not work outside the home;

(8) the family is actively, regularly socially involved in their local community; and

(9) provide the secretary at least three references from people familiar with the family.

Sen. Forrest Knox (R-Altoona) introduced this bill last year. It is slightly different this year in that subsection (8) above was worded in last year’s bill to imply participation in weekly religious meetings.

The bill allows for the CARE family to be paid for the “actual educational expenses incurred for each child who is not enrolled in a school district in an amount not to exceed the statewide average state aid per pupil.” There is no requirement that the child be educated in an accredited school. The child could be home-schooled with the foster parents getting up to the “statewide average state aid per pupil.”

Additionally it appears, from an amendment offered by Knox and adopted on a voice vote, that the public school district that had the child before would be required to pay into the “juvenile out-of-home placement fund.” According to the amendment “such school district shall remit to the secretary an amount equal to the general fund budget of such school district, excluding moneys held in the special education and related services fund, the special retirement contributions fund, the capital outlay fund or bond and interest fund of the school district, the proceeds of any tax levied by such school district that are directly deposited in a fund of such school district and any moneys received by the school district pursuant to federal law, for the current school year divided by the total enrollment of such school district for the current school year divided by 12.”

On final action today, the bill was passed on a vote of 24 to 15.

This bill now goes to the House. Begin talking to Representatives now about this terrible policy.

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We Refuse To Give In!

Feb 23, 2016 by

The Kansas Supreme Court has indicated that if equity in school funding is not addressed by the Legislature before June 30, schools will not be able to open in August.

Should we expect that to happen?

Well, the Court could do that but the real question is why would the Legislature not deal with the order appropriately?

Does anyone really believe that Kansas citizens are going to let their legislators off the hook? Are they going to forgive a legislator that allows that to happen?

While some folks appear to be paralyzed by fear, we have more faith in the process and in the people of Kansas. Failure to address the court order and allowing our schools to close is the last thing any responsible legislator would want. And we can darn well be sure that the citizens of Kansas – the parents and taxpayers – aren’t going to stand by while their elected officials dismantle their schools.

Allowing the schools to close would be an economic disaster for Kansas communities. In many counties the public schools account for as much or more than 25% of payroll. What happens to local businesses when that amount of economic activity goes away?

What can you say about a legislator who would jeopardize the chances that a Kansas high school senior has to get into college? What would such a legislator say to the parents of a five-year-old excited for that first day of kindergarten?

Yes, some legislators – maybe many – may not be happy with the court decision. Yes, they may seek their pound of flesh in some kind of standoff. And maybe they want to test the court; to push them to the brink. But if they did and the schools were to close, how would those legislators be able to walk door to door in their quest to be re-elected? Show us the legislator who would sacrifice small businesses, force school employees onto unemployment, and deny educational opportunities to our children. What legislator wants to look into the eyes of a child’s parents and talk about “activist judges?”

Some people – even some in the education community – want us all to shake our heads, wring our hands, and cry “woe is me.” Kansas NEA is not among them.

We are planning for schools to be open. We are counting on the legislators – regardless of their ideology – to face their obligations responsibly. And we fully expect every Kansan to hold accountable any legislator who fails to stand up for our children, our schools, and our communities.

Readers should look for a mid-session review in Under the Dome tomorrow.

Click Here to TAKE ACTION NOW!

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No Bad Stuff Today…But STAY VIGILANT!

Feb 22, 2016 by

House Debates Bills

The House debated a number of bills today, two of which have an impact on public schools.

House Bill 2532 adds financial literacy to the Rose Standards. KNEA supported the bill in committee. It was amended on the floor on a motion of Rep. Sue Boldra (R-Hays) to put specific mentions of mathematics and science in the Rose standards. The Boldra amendment was adopted on a voice vote.

Rep. John Alcala (D-Topeka) moved to amend the bill by adding in his ethnic studies bill but not in the same form it came out of committee. The Committee had changed the bill so that it could not teach social justice remedies. The Alcala amendment allows this. The amendment was adopted on a division vote of 70 to 51. But when the bill came up on final action, it was defeated on a vote of 43 to 81.

The second education related bill was HB 2578 which allows chiropractors to clear a sports team member to play following a head injury. Much of the debate on the bill focused on chiropractors versus physicians. Some from Western Kansas had argued that it was often very difficult to find a physician to examine the player and make a decision. The bill was passed on a vote of 73 to 51.

The House was finished shortly after 2:00 today and will reconvene tomorrow at 9:00 am when they will debate 17 bills.

No education bills are on the debate agenda for tomorrow.

The bills that we are following most closely have not yet passed but the session is far from over.

Bills on tuition tax credits – the voucher bills – HB 2174 and HB 2457 are not scheduled for debate nor is the common core bill, Sub for HB 2292. The bill repealing due process for community and technical college instructors will not be debated tomorrow but has been referred to a time-exempt committee and so could be brought up for a vote any time after the break. We will know more about the status of these and other bills at the end of the session mid-point tomorrow.


Senate Going Long; 35 Bills Today!

The Senate put 35 bills up for debate today and they are still going on as we write today’s edition. Of interest to educators is SB 342, a bill tightening up online privacy requirements for software companies that provide resources to schools.

Assuming the Senate completes all of this today, they will still have 10 bills to debate tomorrow, none of which are education bills.


Half Way Point – What About the Bad Stuff?

Upon adjournment tomorrow, we will be half way through the 2016 session. The second half will be hard. School finance is not finished and so far there are no responses to the Supreme Court’s decision on equity in Gannon. Many negative education bills are still around.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that no bad ideas ever go away. We must never forget April of 2014 when anti-education legislators brought forth all the terrible ideas that had not passed a committee and made them floor amendments to the budget. Those legislators waging a war on public service and public education are determined. Those of us who value public education must be just as determined.

All of us must stay vigilant through the session and into the election cycle. Your job back home is to use every opportunity to meet with legislators – at forums, in your communities, in the supermarket – and make your voice heard.

Your other job is to continue to work with parents, civic organizations, and all of your colleagues to get them engaged in this effort.

Read and share Under the Domewww.underthedomeks.org.

Follow KNEA on twitter – @MLBOIG, @desettiks, @Kneanews, @Kansasedtalk

Send your friends and neighbors to www.Joinusks.org to sign up for alerts and information.

Tune in to www.ksEdTalk.org and listen to our monthly education podcast featuring teachers, parents, school board members, and legislators.

Be vigilant…be vocal…be determined.

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